Homicide detectives don’t chase streakers. So it shouldn’t be Jill Smith’s problem when Berkeley’s new public nudity ban stirs the spirit of the city’s exhibitionists, unleashing a horde of indignant flashers on the city streets. But department infighting has resulted in Jill being stripped of her gold detective badge and put back in uniform to pursue the naked radicals. She’s pursuing one of these au naturel miscreants though a patch of poison oak when she’s stopped by Bryn Wiley, Olympic diver, gym owner, and local hero. Bryn is in a feud with a rival fitness club, whose owner she suspects of shooting bullets through her car windows. Jill can’t help her—she has nudists to apprehend!—and so Bryn resolves to take matters into her own hands, holding a press conference where she calls her rival out. It’s a bold move, and may also be a foolish one. Her assailant’s next target will be something far more valuable than a car.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Susan Dunlap including rare images from the author’s personal collection.
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About the Author
Susan Dunlap (b. 1943) is a prolific author of mystery novels. Born in the suburbs of New York, Dunlap majored in English at Bucknell College and earned a masters in teaching from the University of North Carolina. She was a social worker before an Agatha Christie novel inspired her to try her hand writing mysteries. Five attempts and five years later, she published Karma (1981), which began a ten book series about brash Berkeley cop Jill Smith. Since then, Dunlap has published more than twenty novels and numerous short stories. Her other ongoing characters include the meter-reading detective Vejay Haskell, medical examiner Kiernan O’Shaugnessy, and Zen student turned detective Darcy Loft. In addition to writing, Dunlap has taught yoga, worked as a paralegal, and helped found the women’s mystery organization Sisters In Crime. She lives in San Francisco.
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A Jill Smith Mystery
By Susan Dunlap
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Susan Dunlap
All rights reserved.
If you can't enjoy the peculiarities of your fellow citizens, you'd better not live in Berkeley. Certainly you should not be a police officer there.
I love Berkeley, and the "Only in Berkeley" events that pop up as a regular feature in the press.
Like the daffodils already in bloom, some of our protests are annuals, and some, like the flowering plum blossoms, are perennials. And some—I've exhausted my knowledge of horticulture—flash and are gone.
The nudity movement should have fallen into that last category. And would have if the regents of the University of California had been governed by common sense and the understanding of one rule of life:
Winter follows fall.
Maybe the regents were pressured. Maybe they panicked. Whatever. The result was that nudity became a Berkeley cause célèbre.
During the spring and summer a college junior known as Naked Guy bared all for campus strolls. An article made The Daily Californian. Campus police asked Naked Guy to cover himself. But nothing is forever, and soon Naked Guy was naked again. News coverage increased in inverse relationship to that of Naked Guy. In September, after undergraduates returned to campus, and the California Golden Bears trotted toward the scrimmage line, a coalition of Golden Bares formed a line of their own in Sproul Plaza. It was hard to say which team garnered greater support. In the theater, Berkeley Repertory Company rehearsed. On the plaza, the X-plicit Players performed—to an audience with no no-shows.
The New York Times reviewed.
October arrived. Rain loomed. Cold tail winds threatened. It looked like the nudity movement would be quashed with the blanket of winter, that Naked Guy had flashed and would fade ... into oblivion.
Until the regents of the University of California made the one move that could save his campaign. They expelled him.
He who seemed dead, lived.
On campus a new crop of undergraduates demonstrated, clothing their protest in the dour garb of the first amendment and freedom of assembly.
The regents bristled.
And we citizens of Berkeley settled in to watch the show. In the world of protest we've seen it all (and most of us have done part of it). We are the sophisticates of the field. When a nude undergraduate trots purposefully across campus as if he's been too rushed to remember everything, most of us sip our caffè lattes and grin. And when the body he has offended is the stodgy regents, we lift our cups in salute.
But we in the police department, the guys on the Crowd Management Team in particular, grinned less enthusiastically when the conflict shifted from UC-Berkeley to Berkeley proper. Still, it wasn't our problem. In the city of Berkeley, it was illegal to be lewd but not to be nude.
But some eyes were offended. To their rescue came the Nudity Ordinance. To the City Council Nudity Ordinance hearing came the X-plicit Players, playing explicitly on the council steps. As the meeting began, nine council members sat in a semicircle before the audience. Facing them in the first row, holding a BAN NUDITY banner, were four protesters in skirts and blouses, shirts and slacks. And one pro-nudity advocate wearing a turquoise headband.
Audience statements began. One after another—ten citizens, chosen by lot—approached the podium. A man in a suit spoke on earthquake preparedness. A man in shirtsleeves protested freeway widening. And opposing the nudity ordinance was a man with a bright blue fanny pack on his tanned fanny. He, it turned out, was to be the interpreter for a Spanish speaker attired in an earring.
Cameras flashed. Audience members flashed. As the council discussion wore on, clothes in the audience came off.
But in the end, ends were to be covered, legally. The defeated lupines might beat their breasts, but not bare them. Berkeleyans were to be clothed except when breast-feeding or on stage. Complained the X-plicit Players, "We don't want the police to make ultimate determinations of whether something's obscene or art."
It was a stand with which we on the force concurred.
Alas, unauthorized offshoots had sprung from the X-plicit Players like sprouts from a potato. Performances began popping up all over town. For their successors, the Bare Buns Brigade, all of life was a stage.
But all reviews were not raves. And when the audience booed, they called us.
Had I still been in Homicide-Felony Assault Detail, I might still be chuckling. But Detective Jeffrey Lee Brucker had flown in from a two-year plum assignment in Sacramento, landed in Homicide, and bounced me back to patrol. Brucker resented being sent back to Berkeley; I resented having him. We both were trying to keep our mouths shut and not appear petty. But when I had stood in my old office and emptied the contents of all but my bottom two desk drawers—all that would fit—into a box, I felt a flush of anger rising, and waves of sadness damping it down.
I'd spent years in the department battling the lingering sexism: I am the only woman in the Berkeley Police Department ever to make it to Homicide Detail. Then there was my reputation as someone a little too cozy with the counterculture, more "Berkeley" than cop. In Homicide it doesn't pay to be macho; it pays to be smart, and trusted. I could have kept on the promotion track, headed to be Chief of Police. But I'd opted to stay in Homicide, because I was making a difference, answering the only question that could ease a survivor's grief—who was the killer—and getting that killer off the street in my city.
Now I was out of Homicide, and off the promotion track. I was treading water. Or maybe just flailing my arms.
After a week of patrol, grappling with the dispatch codes I'd long forgotten, battling the uniform into which breasts and hips fit like a fat guy in a coach seat, I still felt disoriented. Getting back in uniform was like donning a costume that covered my body and masked my face.
Now as 6 Adam 19 (team 6, swing shift, patrol officer 19), I back-burnered one of the calls I'd come to hate—a minor complaint from an outraged prima donna athlete ready to complain to the mayor if I didn't hustle my buns to her house—and headed to an impromptu al fresco stage in the Berkeley Hills, to lower the curtain on the Bare Buns Brigade. To Rose Walk, to be exact. One of the pathways that bisect long residential blocks, Rose Walk begins at Euclid with a curved Florentine staircase. From there a path leads to a wide cement circle with a big-globed streetlight. Theater in the round. With the spotlight provided by the city. It was, of course, more than the Bare Buns brigands could resist.
"Six Adam nineteen, your ten-twenty?" the dispatcher's voice came over the radio.
I grabbed my crib sheet off the seat. I felt like a foreign tourist, frantically paging through Police-Talk Made Easy. I was thinking of writing the codes on my wrist. Ten-twenty? Ah, my location. "Euclid and Buena Vista. I'll be at the, uh, ten-nine-seven in a minute." The scene was only a block away.
Adam 2's car was at the bottom of the stairs on Euclid, blue and yellow pulsar lights still blinking at the street. 6 Adam 2—Howard—had left the pulsars on to alert me, and more importantly, any other backup units we might have to call. The solo patrol officer's safety comes from the dispatcher and backups knowing where he is—always.
I pulled up behind and swung out of my car. My protective vest felt like an iron lung. I had to keep my arms clear of the gun on one hip, the baton on the other. A foot-long flashlight dangled from the back of the belt. The whole ensemble weighed in at twenty-five pounds. I moved like I had stepped into someone else's body.
As I walked up the Florentine staircase, the glow of the streetlight accented the pink azaleas and the deep purple flowering plum trees, and cast delicate shadows on the grass. And on four men. One—Howard—was in uniform, towering over the others. And they, facing him, backs to me, were standing shoulder to shoulder, the light dancing off their doughy white derrières. All men are not created equal—in size, shape, in texture, firmness ... But perhaps I was assessing the result of their misdemeanor with greater than necessary thoroughness. Howard from his own vantage point was struggling against a grin.
Most of the residents on Rose Walk watched the performance from the box seats of their living room windows. But two couples stood at the edge of the lamp's glow holding up wineglasses in a bemused salute.
It was the demonstrators who were shifting uneasily under red velvet horns, a Statue of Liberty crown, or a bulldog Halloween Mask. The three seemed baffled, as if their script had been yanked away, their mission aborted. They were here to offend the bourgeoisie, not to entertain them.
"Let 'em go, Officer," one of the wine drinkers was saying when I arrived at the circle.
"When they're dressed they can leave," Howard said, never taking his eyes from the trio.
"No way," the red-horned blond said, "this is freedom of assembly."
"Come on," a woman with a glass of red said, "it's March. These cherubs are already covered with goose bumps."
"They have to be clothed with clothes. City law," Howard snapped. His wide lips pressed together and his lantern jaw jutted forward. The Nudity Ordinance was a silly law. It made a fad into a crime, and us into the bad guys. Howard, the department's King of Sting, the Prince of Panache, the Emir of the Attenuated Gag, just hated being turned into a Toady of the Tush. I wouldn't have been surprised to see him redden with fury, or humiliation. "Nakedness is a misdemeanor," he growled.
"Misdemeanor!" The masked one took a step toward Howard. "What kind of repressive, Victorian society is this?"
"Yeah," the blond seconded. "If we want to have the cops on our tails every step we take, we might as well live in Trenton."
I grew up in Jersey. Abandoning Berkeley for Trenton seemed rather a high price to pay for the privilege of mooning the world. In Trenton, the police wouldn't haul a nudist in for indecent exposure, they'd assume he'd been robbed.
Howard shook, his head. "Okay, gentlemen, last chance. Cover up and you can leave."
"Hey, man, we've got our rights. Like there's still the first amendment, you know. Even in Berkeley."
"The district attorney will be glad to discuss that with you."
Howard nodded at me: the signal to move in.
The blond stared. The dark-haired guy yanked off his Statue of Liberty crown, threw it in the air, and shrieked. Suddenly, bulldog mask lunged at the two spectators standing together, grabbed the woman, and threw her to the ground.
She screamed, as her husband jumped between them. Glasses hit the ground. There was a crush of bodies slamming into each other.
"Hold it!" yelled the first backup, running up the path. I aimed my knee at the back of one nudist's knees and grabbed his shoulders to pull him down. But he twisted away.
"Hold it right there," Howard yelled.
Horns and Crown held. Bulldog shoved Howard hard, and he went sailing into a rhododendron.
"Stay where you are! Don't move!" the backup, Leonard, yelled.
Bulldog didn't stay. He leapt at me, grabbed my hair, and spun me around.
When I got my feet under me, he was halfway up the path. I glanced at Howard and Leonard and the suspects. Howard was back on his feet. "I'll take him!" I yelled. It sounded like a statement but Howard had the final say.
Howard hesitated just a moment—an eternity in this situation. There was amused disbelief in his voice when he yelled, "Right. Go get him. I'll get you backup."
Did Howard think I couldn't handle this? Howard, the man with whom I swam every morning, and shared a bed—not unathletically—at night? He could explain later. I wasn't about to let this kid tell his friends how he'd grabbed a cop by her ponytail, spun her around, and then left her in the dust—not and hear it from Howard, and Leonard, and everyone else. I ran after the kid, up onto Rose Street, a steep, narrow, patch-paved lane, sided on the south by a wall, on the north by houses hanging down the hillside. It ends abruptly at the base of a cement overhang of La Loma Street that now swings out over the top of Rose.
But it does have streetlights. And in the glow, halfway up, I could see the nudist huffing hurriedly up the steep street, the globes of the streetlights shining on the globes of his buttocks and his head. The guy was entirely bald.
I followed, huffing a lot harder than him. "Police!" I yelled, "Stop where you are!"
He stopped, looked around, and resumed pace.
It was a real low-speed chase, this. The night was clear but cold. The cold wouldn't bother him now. There are detriments to being naked, but by the time I was halfway up the street I envied him. He wasn't sweating under a wool uniform. He wasn't carrying half the hardware in Berkeley on a belt, or a radio on his shoulder spitting out calls too soft to hear. I pushed off harder with each step; my legs were moving like lead. Sweat dripped over my eyes. I wiped it away and looked ahead.
The nudist was gone!
He couldn't have gotten up over the railing onto La Loma; there hadn't been time. Hiding under the roadway, that's where he had to be. I pulled my flashlight free. The railing up above would come in handy to anchor the cuffs. I could hear sirens coming up La Loma. I shone the light under the overhang and shouted, "Come ... out ... now. Hands where ... I can see them.
But he wasn't there.
I stood staring, the sweat running down my spine and pasting my hair to my neck.
"Adam nineteen, do you need more backup?"
"No," I said in disgust. Not when I'd lost the suspect.
"Ten-four." The radio growled and went silent. Leaves rustled.
But it wasn't rustling, exactly. It wasn't leaves; and it wasn't overhead. I fanned the light before me, on the steep hillside. The nudist stood out in a thicket of ivy, like the only ornament on the Christmas tree, a hundred feet down, two thirds of the way through a steep slide to Shasta Road below.
"Oh, shit!" I pushed the mike button. "Adam nineteen. Top of Rose by La Loma. Suspect going down through the ivy to Shasta. Send me backup." I didn't wait for a reply. I hit the ivy feet first, half running, half sliding, on the muddy ground and wet leaves. Like surfing or skiing, or one of those cold, slippery sports in which your best hope is you don't break some body part you might want to use again. A thick live oak branch came at me—or me at it. I ducked, too late. It scraped my head, caught at my hair. Twigs poked up from the ivy, catching on my pants, snapping the baton against my leg. And poison oak, it was all around. I had envied the unencumbered nudist as he sprinted up Rose Street. No more. By the time he got down to Shasta Road, his legs would look like they'd been graffitied. And in another day or two he'd have good reason to be nude.
The slope eased. He was off to my right, disappearing behind thick trunks of redwoods and reappearing in open patches, the full moon his spotlight. He was fifty yards ahead now, but I was closing on him. My thighs ached, but my breath was coming easier now. I longed to reach the street and run. I could almost feel my arm stretching out, my hand grabbing his scalp and smacking him to the ground.
He was almost at the street. I slowed, watching as he leapt from atop the railroad ties that blocked the end of the path. I'd driven Shasta Road on patrol: I knew the ties were there: and so had the suspect.
"Northbound on Shasta," I gasped into the mike.
I leapt off from the ties onto Shasta, and chased north after him. Damn it, where was the backup unit? The suspect was running like a satyr. He reached the fork at Tamalpais and, without a break in stride, headed down.
"Tam ... al ... pie ... is," I panted.
Now that he was on the macadam, it was a different story. Berkeley, the Preserver of Potholes, was hard on bare feet. In another hundred yards I'd have him—if he didn't disappear in the peninsula of redwoods eighty yards ahead where the street looped back on itself. Or in the wooded backyards across the street. Or worst of all, on Tamalpais Path, a long, steep, very dark staircase that would toss him out in the wooded back of one of the city's biggest parks. Not only would I not find him down there; the entire force could be looking and miss him.
Excerpted from Sudden Exposure by Susan Dunlap. Copyright © 1996 Susan Dunlap. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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